Luang Prabang: A Walking Tour

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

Luang Prabang is the jewel in Laos’ crown. Located in the north of the country on the peninsula created by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, the town is surrounded by lush green mountains and is a beautiful example of the fusion between Lao and European culture. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, it’s architecture and culture are revered throughout Asia.

The township itself is quite compact, and with the exception of Mount Phousi, is flat – and so perfect for exploring on foot. It’s a good idea to start early in the day as the climate can be tropical (read rainy!) in the afternoons, dependent on the time of year of your visit! Read on for my self-guided walking tour of Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang: A Walking Tour

1. Breakfast at JoMa Bakery

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

Start your day at one of Luang Prabang’s favorite bakery cafes. Located only a short stroll from the main intersection of the town, and not far from the tourist information center it is a remnant of the French influence on this tiny township.

2. Morning Market

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

Walking back towards the tourist office, turn left at the main intersection and then the first right down a nameless street which serves as the morning market. This is effectively the town’s ‘supermarket’ and here you’ll find anything from local fruits and veggies, dried chili and spices to meat and fish (*some of which is still alive!*) to pink eggs and made on the spot stir frys. Beware of the motorbikes though.. just because its a pedestrian street doesn’t mean the locals won’t sneak down where they can!

**Stay turned for my review of Tamarind Laos Cooking School with whom I visited the largest market in northern Laos – and where the food on sale was the definition of fresh!**

3. The Royal Palace museum & Haw Pra Bang (Wat MAI)

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

Where the market ends at a fork in the road, turn right and you will find yourself at the side of the Palace grounds. Enter from the main road (be sure to arrive before 11am or after 1.30pm as they close for lunch!). It is free to wander the grounds of the now defunct Lao Royal Family with a small entrance fee if you want to go inside the main building. We opted to skip this, but made our way around the right to the back of the building where there was a small exhibitsΒ  of local artwork in the second story building hidden at the back of the property.Β  Its worth a look to see if there is anything there on your visit!

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

After you have finished, exit back onto the main road where you will pass the most photographed temple in Luang Prabang – Haw Pra Bang (Wat Mai). The temple has a five tiered roof and is one of the most visually stunning in Asia. It was built to house Loas’ most revered Buddha image, the Phra Bang Buddha – for which the town was named after. It is spectacular both inside and out which ensures its status as a national treasure.

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

4. Wat Xieng Muan

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

A quiet temple, set back from the main road – it is hard to find if you don’t know what to look for. Nestled between a cafe and a travel agency on the main road, turn left onto a non-descript road leading towards the riverfront. Here you will find a cute little temple, numerous buddha status and outside the walls in the neighboring compound where the residential facilities are, a number of stupas.

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

5. Lunch!

Walk back to the main road and pick a lunch spot form the plethora of options available. Pick somewhere that doesn’t look as ‘polished’ and you’re *almost* guaranteed to get some of the best home cooked, traditional food in the village. If you haven’t tried Larb (Laap/Laab) this is the perfect opportunity. Larb is a national dish which can be made with chicken, fish, pork, mushrooms or beef – the protein is flavored with lime, fish sauce and chili and is normally served with fresh veggies and sticky rice. It is my absolute favorite Lao dish – and it would be a crime to visit Luang Prabang without trying it!

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

Larb I made @ Tamarind Laos Cooking School

6. Wat Xieng Thong

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

Continue walking along the main road – not forgetting to admire the colonial buildings on the right – and on your left you will arrive upon Luang Prabang’s most magnificent temple. Its grounds contain a central huge sim with gilded and embossed walls telling the history of the Laos people, along with an outer wat, stupas, drum tower, monk’s quarters, library and a chapel! It is easy to spend over an hour here and is well worth the nominal entrance fee.

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

7. Wat Sene

Exiting back onto the main road – and walking back towards the Royal Palace, you will have noticed on the way down to Wat Xieng Thong, that there are many other temples to explore – often with chatty monks! Take a wander around Wat Sene and admire the drum towers, gilded temples and many stupas that are on show. One of my favorite shots from the day was taken whilst wandering around the residential area of Wat Sene where I noticed saffron robes hanging out to dry – the vibrant orange against the white washed walls and contrasting with the wooden beams of the roof really caught my eye.

If you’re templ-ed out by now – feel free to skip these last few Wats! And if you missed them on the way up – don’t forget to check out the amazing colonial building on the opposite side of the road.

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

My favorite picture of the day πŸ™‚

Lunag Prabang Walking Tour

Check out this old Mercedes!

8. Mount Phousi

So the temples conclude the flat portion of our walk – and walkingΒ  back to the Palace, if you are tired – you could always skip Mount Phousi and come back to it another day. If not – up we climb! Enter via the stairway opposite the Grand Palace and be prepared for a lot of stairs to reach the 100m high summit. But man is it worth it. The sprawling views over both the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers are breathtaking – you really do feel like you’re at the top of the world – or the top of Luang Prabang at least!

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

Those steps are steep folks!

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

Stupas at the Summit of Mount Phousi

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

The Mekong makes for the perfect backdrop..

…and to reward you for your climb – be sure to turn around either half way up or half way down and get that picture perfect shot of the most photographed temple in Laos – Haw Pra Bang.

Luang Prabang Walking Tour

I hope you enjoyed my virtual walking tour of Luang Prabang. Did I miss any of your must-see spots? Or is there anywhere you would skip altogether? Let me know in the comments below.

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35 thoughts on “Luang Prabang: A Walking Tour

  1. anna says:

    Great idea Vicki! I’m sure this would come in handy for those visiting Luang Prabang. I absolutely love the place. The night market and the waterfalls are a few of my favorite spots.

  2. Serendipity Tess says:

    I remember walking up to Mount Phousi. It was hard! Particularly because we were there in March and supposedly it’s one of the hottest months. It took me a whole while to recover once I was at the top!! Beautiful photographs!!

  3. Ash says:

    Thanks for the Ideas.I love walking around new places, it’s the best way to get involved! Great ‘roadmap’ for places to go!

  4. Brianne Miers says:

    Fantastic tips and photos! I’ve also wanted to go to Laos and wasn’t able to make time during my last Southeast Asia trip. Hopefully I’ll make it there in 2016. I’ve pinned this for future reference!

  5. jason says:

    I didn’t realize there are a lot of nice places to see and temples too in Laos. I wonder how many steps are there on the stairway. It looks perfect for a selfie.

  6. Cathy (MummyTravels) says:

    I absolutely loved Luang Prabang when we were there – such beautiful temples, and the water. Phousi is worth the climb too, although it’s definitely a bit of a hike! I think we went later in the day when it wasn’t so hot. Will have to keep an eye out for your post on Tamarind as well, I did their cookery course and had such a fantastic time. #mondayescapes

    • Vicki says:

      Hi Anita, that’s great that you travel with your son – hopefully your travels will inspire the wanderlust in him and he will go back to see it on his own when he is older. Laos is such a beautiful place! Happy Travels πŸ™‚

  7. Linda Bibb says:

    Wow, I seriously had no idea that this place existed. I really enjoyed your walking tour format because it gave me a better sense of space, so thank you for that. Seems to me that Luang Prabang has more than its share of wats, but even without seeing them all, it appears that only visiting for one day wouldn’t do the town justice.

    • Vicki says:

      Hi Linda – you’d definitely need a minimum of 4-5 days to really get a feel for the place without rushing. In addition to the township there are day trips to Pak Ou Caves, Kwang Si Falls and the BEST cooking school in Asia! I’m writing a post about the rest of the wonderful things to do so hopefully I can inspire you to make the trip!
      Happy Travels πŸ™‚

    • Vicki says:

      Hi Jolanta – I am a big fan of maps, I like to see everything to plan the best route and work out timings etc. And I love Laarb – its one of my favorite recipes and I still make it now! Happy Travels πŸ™‚

    • Vicki says:

      Hi Ruth – yes they do. The Morning Market is mostly food stalls – and is pretty much where the locals buy their daily produce from – but the Night Market in Luang Prabang is great – there are lots a great local products at fantastic prices – and the best thing is, they just set up in the middle of the main road through the town!

  8. Kat says:

    I never knew one could do a self-guided walk in Luang Prabang. A lot of reviews of the city/town were mainly about the river cruise to LP. Thanks for sharing, so now I know, in the event I go to Laos one day, I will do the same walking trail πŸ™‚ #MondayEscapes

  9. Carol Colborn says:

    Wow, you saw a lot in just one tour of Luang Prabang! And I have never been to Laos nor tasted Larb. I sure would love to learn how to cook and relish it after.

  10. Dale says:

    Walking is my favorite way to explore and Luang Prabang is a wonderful place to see that way. I loved the night market and the waterfalls especially. Also, the bakery cafe! Did you try Utopia there for yoga and/or snacks at all?

  11. Elizabeth (Wander Mum) says:

    Great post. It brings back fond memories of my trip to Laos (many years ago). Luang Prabang is a fab city with so much to see…I think you pretty much nailed the main sites (and have made me long to return). #mondayescapes

  12. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    Luang Prabang looks so tranquil and beautiful. The temples have such a calm and spiritual aura around them. It would be a great pleasure to walk around in these environs. I am sure you had a great experience.

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